Thousands of travelers in the Philippines were left stranded at the start of 2023 as a technical glitch caused flights to be diverted, canceled, and delayed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other Philippine airports.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) on New Year’s Day said that nearly 300 flights to and from Manila and an estimated 56,000 passengers were affected due to technical issues in the air traffic management system.
As of Jan. 3, 2023, flights have already started to normalize. However, it may take some time to fully restore the normal schedules due to the backlog of delayed flights.
The Air Passenger Bill of Rights mandates that passengers may refund their fares should their flights be affected by force majeure or by unprecedented events such as infrastructure failure.
While this incident is beyond the air carrier’s control, several airlines have given travelers the option for free rebooking, availing of a travel fund, or getting a refund.
With revenge travel back in full swing this 2023, canceled flights and delays are inevitable in the future. Here’s how you can rebook or refund flights on airlines commonly used to and from the Philippines.
Philippine Air Lines (PAL)
PAL advises travelers to check the status of their flights before proceeding to the airport. In case a flight is canceled, travelers have the following rebooking options to manage their bookings on the airline's website:
- Convert your ticket to Travel Credits equivalent to the unused base fare of your ticket. Voucher validity is one year (1) from the date of issuance.
- Rebook or Reroute your ticket to another flight with available space within 60 days from the original flight in the same booking class or higher within the same cabin class. Fare difference may apply.
- Refund ticket without penalties, excluding Ticketing Service Charge. Travelers may contact PAL via the MyPAL Hub Request.
- In the event of involuntary flight changes to rebook you on another date, use the Self Re-accommodation option. Rebooking fees and fare differences are waived.
For travels affected by schedule changes, cancellations and travel bans, there should be no rebooking fee and no fare difference for completed travels in the same booking class within 60 days from the affected flight date.
Cebu Pacific is currently working on the recovery of its network and normalizing its operations. A list of canceled flights can be viewed here. Following the New Year's day fiasco, the budget airline discourages passengers from going to the airport and advises travelers to monitor the status of their flights online.
Affected passengers have been informed and provided with options (free rebooking, travel fund, refund) through the Manage Booking portal on the Cebu Pacific website.
For flights until 11:59 p.m. of January 3, 2023, passengers may voluntarily postpone their travel and avail of their options (free rebooking or travel fund) on the Cebu Pacific website.
- Free Rebooking: Rebooking without fare difference is available for travel up to thirty (30) days from original flight date. The fare difference will apply if travel period is beyond thirty (30) days from the original flight date.
- Travel Fund: Store the amount in a virtual CEB wallet valid for six (6) months and use this to either book a new flight or pay for add-ons (example: baggage allowance, seat selection, etc.)
- Refund: The process may take up to two months from the date of request.
Take note that available seats for immediate travel are limited due to the peak travel period.
Likewise, AirAsia is working with airport authorities to ensure convenience among guests in all of their airport operations pending complete resolution of the technical concerns. Travelers on AirAsia can check their flight status online before proceeding to the airport.
Affected travelers may opt to avail of credit account, move their flight or refund options should they wish to make adjustments in their planned trips through the airasia SuperApp.
Travelers who booked flights through Cathay Pacific can manage their booking via the airline’s website, mobile app or through Customer Care. The fastest way to make changes is to log into Manage Booking and rebook flights by clicking the “Rebook and refund” button.
Passengers under the same booking are required to change dates and/or flights together when changing flight bookings online. If the itinerary involves connecting flights with other carriers, travelers will also be able to make changes to the rest of the booking.
Customers who booked flights directly with Singapore Airlines may change their travel dates online. In most circumstances, simply log in to Manage Booking and select your new flights.
In case you have already commenced your travel and/or one of your flights is waitlisted, you can also make use of their Help Form instead.
In the event of a flight cancellation, international border closures, if you test positive for Covid-19 and are unable to travel, or cases of other flight changes due to unforeseen circumstances, Singapore Air has an Assistance Request Form that can be used to seek a refund of the unused portion of a ticket.
Those flying via Emirates can easily edit and make changes to their flights online via the Manage Bookings section of the website.
There should be no change fees when you rebook within the validity of the ticket so you have more flexibility to plan ahead. However, there may be a difference in the fare or tax if you choose to change the date or the destination.
How to make sure you’re eligible for flight rebooking or refunds
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has said it is investigating the cause of the New Year flight incident and that it has requested the government to upgrade the country's outdated air traffic management system which was inaugurated in 2018.
It pays to know your rights as air passengers.
Before booking any flight, make sure to read the fine print as well. Different airlines list the "conditions of carriage" for passengers and baggage which contains important rules and provisions like check-in deadlines, refund procedures and the airline’s responsibility (or lack thereof) for delayed or canceled flights.
Each airline may have its own specific rules regarding cancellations, refunds and liability limitations. You can check yours on the links below.
- Philippine Air Lines - Conditions of Carriage
- Cebu Pacific - Conditions of Carriage
- AirAsia - Conditions of Carriage
- Cathay Pacific - Conditions of Carriage
- Singapore Air - Conditions of Carriage
- Emirates - Conditions of Carriage
Travel tips in the case of delayed or canceled flights
- Monitor your flight status before going to the airport. It will be easier to make new arrangements from your home or hotel than to be trapped at the airport.
- Sign up for airlines' free text alerts on the status of flights when you buy your ticket.
- Make sure to download your carrier's app or bookmark the manage booking sections of the carrier's websites before your flight.
- Have all your flight details on hand, as well as airline hotline numbers, for easier retrieval and rebooking if needed.
- Food at the airport is very expensive. Bring a snack pack with you for the airport, a tumbler for refilling drinking water, and extra cash on hand for additional expenses while in transit.
- It pays to have WiFi, a powerbank, and a charger in your hand-carry in case your flight gets delayed and you need to go online or call the airline’s hotlines. Do not rely on airport WiFi or expect that there will be enough charging stations, especially during peak travel seasons like holidays.